December 2018 marks a significant anniversary in history, the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Kindertransports – the movement of approximately 10,000 Jewish refugee children from Nazi occupied areas of Europe. As a project, we at Harwich Haven: Surrender and Sanctuary aim to not only commemorate this important event, but also to raise awareness of the importance of Harwich in this wider Kindertransport story. As part of our series of events, on 3rd December 2018 we staged several re-enactments on the railways across East Anglia, whilst working closely with Eastern Angles and London based group, Splat Theatre.
The preparation for this event began long before the event itself, with Eastern Angles led sessions in the three participating local school groups. The children were put in to the mindset of a Kindertransport child and had the opportunity to help create their own semi-improvised scenes that would be performed at the train stations on the 3rd December. It was essential that the performers were able to understand how the children would have felt, being torn away from their families with little to no understanding of the journey that they were about to find themselves on.
On the day of the 3rd December, the groups were in full 1930s costume and were based at several train stations across the East. There were groups at Harwich Town, Manningtree, Colchester, Ipswich and London Liverpool Street – with each group focusing their performances on several aspects of the journey that the children may have taken. Children re-enacted waving goodbye to their parents at the station, sleeping on the rain platform and being registered in small, but emotional scenes. In addition to this, we had created some postcards and luggage labels to be given to the public – the postcards with an extract written by a Kindertransportee written on them, and the luggage labels similar to the ones given to the Kinder as identification.
We were extremely lucky to have photography by the Harwich and Dovercourt Camera Club and by Daniela Fleckenstein (at Liverpool Street), who have captured special moments throughout the day. We were thrilled with the day itself, and believe that it could not have gone better. We believe that if it made even one person think about the events of 80 years ago, then we have fulfilled our task and put Harwich on the map.
Annie – Harwich Haven: Surrender and Sanctuary Project Assistant